Customer centricity and social networks: why one cannot exclude the other.

Customer centricity and social networks: why one cannot exclude the other.

As it may have happened to many of you in these days, I came across a video featuring Steve Jobs on stage during one of his speeches.

This one was from 1997, when Steve Jobs went back to Apple as CEO to re-launch the Apple computer business.  One of the guys in the audience asked him – not that politely- how he was planning to revamp a tech company if he did not understand about technology.

I believe Job’s statement was way bigger than how big Apple’s evolution has been since then. He said having a technology and then finding a way to sell it and make people use it it’s pointless. Having a technology that does what people want it’s what we need. Start with the customer and then have the technology department figure out how to deliver what customers want.

Steve Jobs- a genial mix of passion, usability and attention to detail (did you read that other story about the yellow tone of the second O in the Google brand not displaying correctly on the iPhone and Job’s call on a Sunday morning to discuss about that urgently? You can find it here)- got ahead of the usability for its products with that statement.

Customer centricity is what a lot of C-level  presentations have been talking about for over a decade in any industry.  A customer centric approach assists an organisation in building important relationships with internal and external customers. Wow- this is social network- We knew the recipe since over a decade!

Yet, today, while people on social networks keep showing they are desperately looking for a bigger interaction with brands, asking for that customer centricity that everybody used to talk about, only half the companies have implemented some kind of social networks strategy. Preliminary results from a survey I am currently running (take it here, it’s just 10 questions and I will share results on this blog) show that only less than 15% of companies with a Facebook page – which is by far the only social media strategy for a large majority of companies- got excellent results from it.  The reason is simple: they are not doing it right.

Social media are built to listen to customers first, and answer then.

Not sure you recall, but call centers (and the cheap Indian call centers) were the biggest talk of the town before the social networks became “the” news. The boom of call centers  was a clear signal that clients do want a direct contact with companies, regardless of where we are- B2B or B2C. B2C should learn from B2B how important this is today.

Why? Time has changed, information are more available and understandable by users, media diffusion has intensified the need for communicating two-ways. And companies cannot be deaf.

Not sure you noticed, but when social media started rising, call centers declined: there was a new way to let clients interact with brands.

Being customer centric means – with no exception- being easily reachable by clients. If traditional marketing channels were looking at providing the right message through the right channel (think about TV commercials), nowadays the keyword is still delivering these messages through the media where the audience is- but the audience has moved to social networks, and the rules have changed. Clients now have a keyboard and they write to you if they are not happy, they won’t just use their remote control and watch another TV channel.

And delivering a message through a network that is “social” means brands must be social too. I’ve seen so many companies using social networks like they used other 1-to-many channels in the past.

I have seen many companies keep placing banners on communities and using their Facebook page or heir twitter handle or their LinkedIn group like they used TV commercials in the past. They do no interact with their clients. Social media management is in marketing’s hands today- which is fine-, but it actually also requires an effort that is typical of customer service and sales (for their account management role). Social media management and a social media strategy cannot stay only in marketing’s hands. And most of all, it cannot be in the intern’s hands or with an agency – which will surely give your brand (along with its reputation) in an intern’s hands.

Think about what has recently happened to Versace with their Facebook page or to Chrysler with their Twitter handle, to name a couple: they had to sither shut down comments on Facebook or fire the media agency serving them, respectively. When I read these stories, I keep reminding a Latin sentence: scripta manent, verba volant, which means “what is written stays, words fly away”. This is why social media should be in experts’ hands and it should be part of a formal strategy.

We must remember we are constantly listened (read) by our audience, and also they are willing to talk back to us. They want to interact. This is what social networks are about: being social.  So social media marketing is not just marketing on a new channel  but it’s building a relation with clients, hat same relation that is usually built with meetings with clients, with sales calling them  and asking if everything is OK to keep the client “warm”.

And, of course, since numbers show the reason why people follow brands on social networks (see the 4Rs in the “related posts” section at the bottom of this post), companies should give them what they want. This is customer centricity. It’s not what we think they want. It’s what they ask for. And clients are surely not deaf!

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